The City of Brotherly Love: Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi, in Thai, roughly translates to the City of Brotherly love. I’m just kidding, it doesn’t at all, it probably doesn’t translate to anything. Kanchanaburi is not by any means, the city of brotherly love. It could probably be described as the city of UNbrotherly love after my bizarre experiences there. However, I shared it with my brother and realized I have yet to write about it and almost 2 weeks later this was the best title I could come up with.

After New Years Ryan and his roommate Pierce ventured to Cambodia to see the infamous Angkor Wat and stay in Siem Reap (cannot wait to visit as it is confirmed it is everything I could hope for and more) while I taught my lovely children. We were reunited the following weekend in Bangkok, where we were able to meet up with my old boss and his wife for dinner. What are the chances! Higher than you would expect, actually, being him and his wife live in Shanghai now. We are Asian neighbors. And we may meet up in Angkor Wat in April. This is all coming full circle!

So we were lucky enough to meet up with my old boss, Anthony and his wife Laura, for the afternoon and an early dinner before the 3 of us and my friends ventured to Kanchanaburi. It was great to catch up, hear about their travels, see more familiar faces on the other side of the world! It also was interesting to talk to someone about teaching who I had worked with previously and who understood what I used to do in real life and for a career. Obviously, you can only explain so much of what your life was like to strangers who have become your close friends here. The girls and I tell stories, share anecdotes and have become extremely close and well versed in each others pre-Thailand lives. However, you can never fully paint the picture. So it was interesting to share my teaching experiences, thoughts and feelings about my new job with someone who understood my old one, as well as managed it. Talking to Laura and Anthony really helped me realize where I struggle with teaching. I have always strived and thrived while planning, managing, executing tasks and seeing a measurable result. That is the work that I find fulfilling and satisfying. When Laura asked me what it was about teaching that I didn’t love, I realized that was it. The structure of the work, the day to day, is just so different from what I had grown accustomed to and what I had become good at in my career. Week to week in teaching yes, I am planning, however, in a completely different way. I am planning the same things over with different material or content every week. And even though I try and get creative with lessons and vary the structure and activities, there isn’t really a sense of accomplishment when its finished. Yes, the kids doing well, having an “Aha!” moment, or a breakthrough is easily one of the most rewarding experiences, but to be honest, those aren’t coming every class period, or everyday for that matter. And that makes it harder. The works isn’t as measurable as I would like it to be, to be honest, as bratty as that may sound. Which I know sounds ridiculous but connecting these dots in my head the other week was an awesome feeling. Its something I think I had known  about myself all along but never really realized. I also honestly thought I would love teaching, had considered doing an alternate route in America at one point. And now I know that I don’t think I would be truly happy. I like working with adults in an office. As boring as that may sound.

This post just took a completely different turn. I am supposed to be talking about traveling with my brother. To Kanchanburi, a city and province west of Bangkok, near Myanmar. Back to the original plan.

We finished dinner and said goodbye (or see you later!) and were off to Kanchanaburi in another minibus to Ryan and Pierce’s chagrin. We arrived too late to get a room at the guesthouse my friends were staying in (Sugar Cane, which they DO NOT recommend) and stayed instead across the street in what felt like a lean-to with some beds. I went down the street to try and book us a tour to Erawan Falls, the main reason we ventured to Kanchanaburi, and met an adorable woman named Toi who had a tour that would take us to the Falls, the Hellfire Pass, some elephants, the Death Railway, and the Bridge over the River Kwai and feed us lunch. And knock off 120 baht a person because there were 5 of us. Sold. If you go to Kanchanaburi look for Toi’s tours.

We woke up early to change hostels and take our tour with a few Russains, a French Canadian lady who was taking a sabbatical to travel SE Asia, a young German couple and some other unidentified Westerners.

First stop, the falls. Which were amazing. Erawan Falls are located in Erawan National Park and there are 7 tiers of them. Each more impressive than the last. They were an all natural, beautiful waterpark. Looked like they belonged in Disneyland they were so pretty. Except the waters were filled with those fish that each your dead skin. Definetely NOT Disney.

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The Kanchanaburi Crew

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Greetings from Thailand

Anyway you hike up to all the different levels of the falls and go swimming and try and avoid the fish and slide up and down the rocks. It was really cool. Pretty as a picture.

From there we had lunch and half the tour went to ride elephants, which Ryan and Pierce opted to do and the other half went to the Hellfire Pass museum on the Death Railway, which Esther, Alex and I did because we had already ridden elephants.

The Hellfire Pass museum was really well done, one of the nicest, most concise museums I had been to in Thailand (I’ve only been to two). I think Australia helped to build it because a lot of Australian POW’s lost their lives building the Death Railway, which would help explain why all the English descriptions made sense. Anyway, I had never heard of the Hellfire Pass or knew anything about the Death Railway so the whole thing was really interesting. For those who don’t know was well, Wikipedia strikes again:

Hellfire Pass (Thai: ช่องเขาขาด, known by the Japanese as Konyu Cutting) is the name of a railway cutting on the former “Death Railway” in Thailand which was built with forced labour during the Second World War, in part by Allied prisoners of war. The pass is noted for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers during construction. Hellfire Pass is so called because the sight of emaciated prisoners labouring at night by torchlight was said to resemble a scene from Hell.[1]

Feel free to read more here.

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Memorial at the museum. Created by an Australian POW that lost his life building the Hellfire Pass

After the Hellfire pass we rendezvoused with the elephant people to go take a ride on the train on the Death Railway. Which was actually pretty cool. I hadn’t been on a train in Thailand yet and it reminded me of my commuting days not so long ago (not). This train didn’t have airconditioning and was even more ghetto then NJ Transit. But we had gotten some snacks and a couple of Leos and had an enjoyable scenic ride through Kanchanaburi countryside.

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Cruising

From there we saw the bridge over the River Kwai (there is a movie if you want to learn more about it) and went home to shower and have a drink while watching sunset at our new guesthouse, Pong Phen, (awesome by the way). That evening we ate a great Thai dinner on the main street of town at Mangosteen Cafe (highly recommend) and then ventured to the local bars. Which then began the strangest night of my life in Thailand to date.

We strolled down to a bar we read about in Lonely Planet called Sugar Member. Which is known for cheap buckets and it’s funny, friendly owner, Sugar. Sugar was a piece of work. Sporting pleather pants and a tank top with a Marijuana leaf on it, she decided we weren’t having a rowdy enough time and wanted to spice things up a bit. She grabbed our group of 5 Americans and a group of 6 or 7 Dutch kids and forced us to play musical chairs. In the middle of the bar. Things heated up real quick. We got about 3 Dutch kids out in the first few rounds. Easy. Then I got out (whoops) and Pierce got out. So now they were almost even. When there were  6 kids left (3 of us, Ryan included and 3 dutch people) Sugar decided to change the rules.

The game became “RUN TO GET MEEEE” instead of musical chairs. Sugar would get on the microphone (even though she was standing in front of us) and scream “run to get meeeeeee” random items you had to get and race back to the bar and grab a chair before everyone else. Things got weird, quickly. The best was “Run to get meeeee….a mans shirt”. Ryan tried to take his off and hand it to her. But she wouldn’t take it, she wanted another man’s shirt. Ryan, embodying the true competitive spirit of Team Buksar, ran into the street, convinced some man who was in the MIDDLE of eating dinner to trade shirts with him. And made it back, first.

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Dedication. “Sir I need your shirt, right away. Sorry to interrupt your dinner. Enjoy”

Needless to say, we didn’t win. Sugar called out a really low, crass “Run to get me…” which i won’t get into. But lets just say Team USA had too much class to succumb to Sugar’s demands. And we came in second. But still got a free whiskey bucket. So thats still a win. Strangest night ever.

The next day we hung at the guesthouse pool until we decided to head back to Chonburi, and Ryan and Pierce joined us to see my city, my school and my kids.

It was hysterical. They were like movie stars. And all the kids wanted to know was how tall they were and how much they weighed. It was too funny. My homeroom class asked them for their autographs and if they could friend them on Facebook. Big shots.

Then they went back to BKK and back to America. I met Ryan for one last drink at Sky Bar in Bangkok and we bid farewell. Next time I see him will be at graduation! And then for the first time in 7 years, I think, we will be back, living under the same room with the parentals. Now thats a scarier thought then playing musical chairs with Sugar again.

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Bangkok from Sky Bar

I am officially half way done with my time here. In less then a month my boyfriend will visit, then I finish teaching, my roommates from college visit, I go to Cambodia, and then my parents come to visit. 3 months left of teaching, trip planning, and traveling! It’s going to fly by.

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2 thoughts on “The City of Brotherly Love: Kanchanaburi

  1. Finally read your blog! So working in an office ain’t that bad, huh? I coulda told ya that. 🙂 But, hey, it helps to be off traveling to realize that. It did for me, too. Luv u.

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